Ageing Japan to get first foreign nurses - report

Fri May 16, 2008

Ageing Japan to get first foreign nurses-report

TOKYO, May 16 (Reuters) — Japan is set to accept nurses and elderly-care workers from Indonesia, possibly as soon as July, the financial daily Nikkei said on Friday, as the country struggles to care for its rapidly growing ranks of old people.

The Japanese government has long kept immigration to a minimum, partly for fear of a possible rise in crime. But the dearth of young people has forced Tokyo to rethink its attitude to foreign workers.

The upper house of parliament on Friday approved an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Indonesia which would allow 400 experienced nurses and 600 experienced care workers to work in Japan on special three and four-year visas, the paper said. The lower house approved the agreement last month.

The nurses and care workers would undergo six months of training and language education before heading to hospitals and homes for the elderly, the Nikkei said. If they fail to gain the appropriate Japanese qualification before their visas run out, they will have to return home, it said.

The Indonesian nurses and care workers will be paid similar salaries to their Japanese colleagues, the paper said.

A "trainee" system that allows tens of thousands of mostly Chinese people to work on Japanese farms and in garment factories has been widely criticised for abuses such as extremely low pay and restricting workers’ freedom.

Japan is the most rapidly ageing country in the world, and 40 percent of the population will be 65 or older by 2055, according to a government report last year. Delays in preparations mean it is uncertain whether the foreign nurses programme will start as scheduled in July.

Tokyo has already mapped out a similar EPA with the Philippines, but it has yet to be ratified by Manila.

(Reporting by Isabel Reynolds)

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source: Reuters